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Toy manufacturers found mistreating workers

Nov 30

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30/11/2015 13:39  RssIcon

Undercover investigation reveals abuses in supply chain

A number of toy brands have been slammed over workers' rights abuses in their supply chains.

An investigation from NGO China Labour Watch, has found that workers at 5 toy factories were subject to poor working conditions, low pay and long hours.

Photo credit, Flickr

The factories in the spotlight supply some of the biggest toy brands in the world including Hasbro, Mattel and Mattel-owned Fisher Price, McDonald’s, Jakks Pacific, Disney, NSI Toys, Battat, MGA Entertainment, and Walmart.

Some of the specific toy brands investigated in the workshops include best selling toys from Frozen, Marvel, and Star Wars.

The allegations have been made after an undercover investigation in factories which altogether employ about 20,000 labourers. They detail 29 labour rights violations, at least 21 of which even violate Chinese legal regulations, campaigners allege.

Findings included:

  • hiring discrimination,
  • a lack of health checks despite hazardous work environments,
  • hiring fees,
  • confiscation of personal IDs,
  • incomplete labour contracts,
  • overuse of temporary workers,
  • excessive and mandatory overtime work,
  • short break times despite 12-hour work shifts,
  • wages at the legal minimum, 
  • wage theft,
  • lack of mandated insurance,
  • legally inadequate safety measures, 
  • poor living conditions, 
  • inspection fraud, 
  • a lack of a functioning labour union.


China Labor Watch Program Coordinator Kevin Slaten said in a press release:

“Over the past 20 years, toy brands and retailers have reaped tremendous benefits from the labor and sometimes even the lives of Chinese workers." 

“Yet these companies fail to respect labor rights and to ensure that workers also enjoy the fruits of the toy industry’s success.”

Persisting problems

Researchers compared findings of this year’s investigation with those of 2012 and 2013, and concluded that despite the toy companies’ clear awareness of serious abuse in their supply chains, most of the problems have persisted or even worsened.

They give the example of Winson Precision Manufacturing, a supplier to Mattel and Fisher-Price, where labour contract violations, forced labour, unpaid legally mandated benefits, and poor living conditions have all failed to improve since 2013. Hiring discrimination, confiscation of personal IDs, working hours, and occupational safety have deteriorated.

Hasbro and Mattel have both responded by launching investigations into the claims made in the report.


In a statement to Fortune, Hasbro spokeswoman Julie Duffy said:

“We are aware of the China Labor Watch report and take their allegations very seriously. We require all Hasbro products to be manufactured in accordance with rigorous ethical standards, and that all third party facilities ensure employees have a healthy and safe working environment. Hasbro combines industry best practices, strategic partnerships, and strict auditing standards to respect the safety, well-being, and dignity of workers, and works continuously to ensure compliance with all third party facilities.”


Mattel spokesperson Alex Clark said that the company is in the process of reviewing the report:

“In the meantime, I can tell you Mattel is committed to ensuring every single person making our toys and products is treated fairly, with respect and is able to work in a safe and healthy environment. Our labor standards, environmental, health and safety programs and oversight processes reflect this commitment, and we stand behind our record of ethical labor practices and environmental stewardship. We are devoted to ensuring that our manufacturing facilities throughout the world are safe and ethical places to work, and we reject any suggestion to the contrary.”

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